DPRK-U.S. Relations strained over “Christmas Surprise”

Patrick Kidwell, The Carroll News

Tensions rise after President Donald Trump revives his moniker “Rocket Man” for DPRK Chairman Kim Jong Un in response to Nov. 28 missile launch; additional launches mark another rise in tensions between the two countries.

On behalf of its first vice foreign minister Choe Son-Hui, North Korea indicated it would violate the verbal cease-fire with the United States after an incident of international name-calling. The isolated government resumed its procession of insults on Dec. 5, addressing  Trump as a “dotard,” according to The New York Times. In CNN’s report of the event, DPRK Chairman Kim Jon Un’s offense to Trump refers to him, roughly translated, as an old lunatic. This comes in response to Trump’s comments regarding North Korea’s Nov. 28 missile launch.

The term dotard describes someone whose mental faculties have declined due to age. The despotic regime’s release of press documents suggests an overt connection of the English term to Trump. As a result, the resurgence of insults marks an arrest in the United States’ public foreign policy goal of denuclearizing North Korea. 

“If Trump’s remarks on [the] use of force and metaphor were a mistake, it would be a relief, but if they were a calculated provocation intended against us, that makes things different,” Choe remarked.

Due to Trump’s impeachment hearings dominating the news cycle, his recent comments regarding North Korea have gone relatively unnoticed

The June 12, 2018 meeting between Trump and Kim Jong Un pledged a lessening of tensions between the two countries, but this has faltered in its practical implementation – despite events such as Trump crossing the 32nd parallel on June 30, 2019.  

According to documents provided by the White House website, the president addressed North Korea’s recent missile launches at the international NATO summit: “We are more powerful, militarily, than we ever have been…[we] have the most powerful military we’ve ever had and we’re by far the most powerful country in the world…Hopefully, we don’t have to use it, but if we do, we’ll use it. If we have to, we’ll do it.” By “it”, the North Koreans have assumed the worst – adrenalizing the incessant state of war commonplace in the battered country.

The remarks by Trump on Tuesday, Dec. 3 in London were in response to the Nov. 28 missile launches. According to a Dec. 7 press release by the Korean News Agency, additional launches have “[changed] the strategic position of North Korea in the near the future.”

This scenario harkens back to the 2017 standoff in which North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong-un, insulted Trump: “Action is the best option in treating the dotard who, hard of hearing, is uttering only what he wants to say…I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U. S. dotard with fire”.

The prior international standoff did not, of course, end in a nuclear shoot-out. Recent events don’t indicate a likely escalation of events, either. On Dec.5, The New York Times reported, “the North Korean military vowed to retaliate if the United States used military force.” However, Choe also said her government was more upset at Trump’s name-calling than his threat to use military force.